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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


What our students say:

Elizabeth Onibokun

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2021-22

“The MPhil POLIS course has managed to surpass and exceed the high expectations I had for such a life-changing program. This year has undoubtedly been such a fulfilling and rewarding experience and it is a beautiful feeling to be able to wake up everyday, excited and motivated by what lies ahead. The best part of the MPhil POLIS course is the interdisciplinary approach to studying international politics, as well as the unique mix of research and taught elements. There is room for flexibility, to explore new pursuits and as students we are granted the incredible opportunity to learn from world-renowned academics and experts who have so much knowledge and wisdom to share. To be in a city like Cambridge is a fantastic freedom and there is a unique pleasure in being apart of a university that has established itself as a leading institution worldwide. There is also a beauty in being apart of a cohort of such bright, talented, and vibrant individuals with whom you share classes with, dissertation struggles, and everything in between! There is inspiration that can be drawn from your coursemates that is incredibly special and adds to the magic of MPhil POLIS. Time and time again, I am in awe of everything this course has to offer and the growth and personal development I have experienced in a matter of months. There are certainly challenges one could face in such a rigorous course but that is not to take away from what you will gain along the way. When I leave Cambridge, I know I am leaving with all I had hoped to accomplish when I first started back in October: wonderful memories of such a special year and a solid foundation for my future as I move onto my next pursuit. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Nadia Schroeder

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2020 - 21

"I chose Cambridge because of its truly impressive range of expertise across international relations, comparative politics, political economy, and political theory. The flexible structure of the MPhil allowed me to make the most of this breadth and select modules that complemented my research interests, while also giving me the opportunity to explore and try something new. This exciting, friendly, and diverse intellectual environment, combined with the generous support of the academics at POLIS, helped me write a thesis that I am truly proud of. The department lived up to its reputation of particular excellence in my interest area of political philosophy and history of ideas, providing me with a world-class foundation from which to pursue further study. Beyond academics, I enjoyed that my peers came from a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds. Our in-class and out of class discussions were a real joy. I formed friendships for life, and will always look back fondly on an amazing year in Cambridge."

David Threlfall

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2019-20

"The MPhil in International Relations and Politics was an intensely challenging and rewarding experience—intellectually, professionally and personally.

First, the student cohort was impressive—drawn from all over the world, many with political, legal or civil service backgrounds, and much else besides. Discussions on peace keeping or terrorism took on immediate applied significance through the presence of current members of the British Armed Forces also undertaking the degree. The coursework in the early stages provided theoretical and methodological rigour, and there was a broad range of courses on offer—something for the historically-minded, or those interested in international relations, law, or comparative politics.

When it came time to focus on my own research, I had the opportunity to be supervised by and work with one of my academic idols. I developed a really substantial project that I have now carried through into a PhD at the LSE, and am looking to publish in a journal as soon as possible. Further inspiration was never far away, either: there were so many talks and events at POLIS and all over town that you could forget to get anything done if you weren’t careful.

In short, Cambridge and POLIS combine to produce a perfect environment for study. For the bookish, the University Library is a wonderful place, and Cambridge itself is a beautiful town. Despite the mess of the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed the second half of the academic year dramatically, I’ll continue to look back fondly on the MPhil at POLIS and Cambridge."

Christine Carpenter

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2017-18

"I fully expected my year in Cambridge to be the most exciting and enriching experience in my educational career, so when I say it was beyond anything I could have imagined, know that I say this having imagined quite a lot. The MPhil program itself is structured in a way that allows an impressive amount of freedom in terms of areas of study within the incredibly broad field of International Relations. For the taught portion, the professors are excellent and are given the opportunity to teach in their respective areas of expertise--in which many of them are among the world's leading authorities. For the research portion, being advised on a subject of independent research by such a formative member of the field (in my case, Public International Law) yielded both the incredibly fulfilling experience of crafting a graduate research project of which I am very proud, and the fostering of a mentoring relationship, the guidance of which I will value throughout my career. My classmates were a central part this journey. Students from various disciplines and life experiences came together in the same space to create dynamic and challenging classroom discussions, pushing each other to question assumptions, broaden understandings, and create new paradigms for viewing the world we study. They not only are comrades I anticipate having as future colleagues, but people who I feel so fortunate to count as some of my dearest friends. There is truly no way to capture this remarkable year in so few words, but let me end by saying the MPhil brought me memories I will cherish for the rest of my life and is an experience for which I will eternally be so very thankful."

Ibrahim Khan

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2017-18

"I was attracted to the program at Cambridge due to the wide range of faculty expertise that seemed available, ranging across topics in international relations, political theory, and comparative politics.

Upon arriving in Cambridge, my impression was affirmed. Alongside a vast offering of lectures and seminars, the experience at Cambridge offers a never-ending stream of workshops and talks from local and visiting scholars. As a student at the university, I had access to experts in every field. Professors were exceptionally helpful and welcoming, and my supervisor went out of her way to provide me with sustained feedback.

Collectively, these factors contributed to my year in Cambridge being a memorable intellectual journey, an ongoing conversation that culminated in a significant intellectual project and with many ideas for future research.

Having graduated from Cambridge, I am now pursuing a PhD in political theory at the University of Chicago. When I think about my current academic interests and my long-term goals, I find that many of them were shaped during my year at Cambridge. When I communicate with my fellow recent graduates of the MPhil program, I discover that they, too, continue to carry and implement the ideas born during the stimulating ten months at POLIS."

Nikta Daijavad

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2016-17

"After completing the MPhil International Relations and Politics in July, I moved to New York to start law school at New York University. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be a lawyer practicing in the area of international public law, but I have always been concerned that an American legal education might not give me the expertise in international affairs I need to pursue such a career, given that many American law schools focus on domestic law. I chose to pursue the MPhil IRPOL as a way of beginning to develop a specialization in international relations, and the course gave me everything I was looking for and more. As a student in POLIS, I was able to explore one particular subject (compulsory hejab in Iran, the subject of my dissertation) in depth while also exposing myself to the full breadth and diversity of research being done in the broader world of political science. And in doing so, I developed a better sense of what I hope to accomplish with my law degree, which is to pursue a career using international law to shape American foreign policy. The MPhil IRPOL was an invaluable experience, one that broadened my perspective and shaped my worldview. I hope to be back visiting the wonderful POLIS faculty and staff very soon!"

Imaan Sandhu 

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2016-17

"After completing my MPhil, I've returned back home to Canada, and was successful in being selected as a Policy Analyst with the Treasury Board of Canada. I attribute this outcome directly to my experience at POLIS. Thanks to the world-class faculty and the care and attention I received at POLIS, I have learned to think critically about history, political discourse and public policy. During the course work, seminars, and various essays, I steadily became more aware of the systemic issues in my own country. This made me re-evaluate what it means for me to be a Canadian, and how I could help shape the national dialogue, which in turn led me to pursue a career in the Public Service of Canada."

David Orr

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2016-17

"The MPhil in International Relations and Politics is a significant reason why I'm choosing to stay in the UK as an international development consultant with Mott MacDonald. The course not only offered me the opportunity to engage more critically with contemporary political and economic trends, particularly as they relate to Africa, but also ensured that these trends were grounded in the appropriate historical context. Additionally, the opportunity to conduct field work in Kenya for my dissertation was a major highlight, and I would encourage all incoming MPhil students to consider heading to the field to gain deeper insight, make valuable connections, and simply have a wonderful time."

Jakob Lundwall

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2015-16

"I think it is fair to say that this year at Cambridge was, beyond many other things, character-building in the best of ways. Not only academically, but moreover personally. The way your peers, your professors, staff and everyone else around you interacts with you, challenges, pushes and supports you was a unique experience. Being comfortable with my ideas and knowing that people take a genuine interest in what you have to say meant the world to me. I felt to have flourished in this vigorous environment, making me challenge my points of views, going out of my comfort zone and always trying to dig that little bit deeper. Cambridge is, above all I find, a state of mind in which people from all walks of life encounter one another: listening to Ban Ki Moon, debating with Yanis Varoufakis or laughing with Nick Clegg is just one aspect of it. Having a personal formal with your supervisor, going punting with an astrophysicist or dating a neuroscientist is the other one; making this the most vibrant, dynamic place I can think of."

Joëlle Corinne Marie Nadeau

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2015-2016

"When I left Canada to pursue the MPhil in International Relations and Politics, I was focused on the professional return that a degree from the University of Cambridge would give me. What I neglected at the time, however, was how eye opening living and studying in Cambridge for a year would be.

Through coursework, supervisions and events at the Department, I explored different fields of international relations thanks to the multidisciplinary approach of the faculty. Courses skilfully mixed theory with practicality and nurtured intellectual curiosity through seminar discussions and timely essay topics. Moreover, being part of an international cohort was a definite value-added as we learnt from each other and engaged in healthy debate.

Outside the program, life in Cambridge is just as stimulating as the course. The college system provides a space for social gatherings and is rich in societies and extracurricular activities. While I am only here for a year, I got involved with college rowing and the organization of our May Ball which made my time here that much more fulfilling. Though I am sad to be leaving Cambridge and academia, I now look forward to embarking on a career in international affairs back in Canada."

Leonie De Jonge

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2014-15

"My professors in the US encouraged me to consider the University of Cambridge, and I was particularly drawn to the interdisciplinary approach of the program so I decided to apply. This proved to be an excellent choice for numerous reasons. Studying at POLIS has allowed me to work closely with experts in the field of international relations. The course is very flexible in a sense that we are allowed to choose three courses and a dissertation topic that best suit our personal interest and area of study.

The program attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds. My classmates hail from virtually every corner of the world and have studied or worked in different fields including the armed forces, foreign affairs, and law. In addition, the university in general and the department in particular offer countless interesting seminars and lectures, allowing us to interact with leading scholars and professionals in our field. This creates a very stimulating intellectual environment.

The year is going by too fast and I am hoping to stay at POLIS by continuing towards a PhD. I ultimately envision working for an international organization."

Richard Griffin

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2014-15

"I chose Cambridge because I wanted the opportunity to learn from some of the best Professors in the field of international relations in one of the world’s leading universities.  I wanted to build upon my past professional experiences (as a UN Intern, Solicitor in a large law firm and as a Solicitor in an NGO) and gain in-depth knowledge of the key trends and developments in global affairs today. As someone particularly interested in rising powers and global governance, the fact that POLIS housed both a Centre for Rising Powers and a Centre for Governance and Human Rights was also influential as I knew their research priorities and my interests matched.

One of the best aspects of the course is the small class sizes. This provides the opportunity to really engage with both the Professor and fellow classmates. I have found that this enables us to explore ideas and compare perspectives in detail. These were often the most intellectually challenging but rewarding moments of the course. The setting in Cambridge with the residential colleges has provided the opportunity to meet scholars from all disciplines in a really collegiate atmosphere and build a truly global network of intelligent, passionate and driven people. On any given week numerous world experts come through Cambridge and share their cutting edge research and often off-the-record insights."

David Miller

MPhil in International Relations and Politics 2014-15

"In choosing Cambridge, and POLIS in particular, I was above all interested in the mix of taught and research elements, coupled with the impressive faculty involved in teaching, supervising, and advising within the course. Indeed, this combination of classes and research has been a major strength of the course for me. Having a wide range of courses to choose from in the taught portion allowed me to develop my interests, and increase my knowledge, in fields that might not pertain directly to my current research topic but indeed are valuable for my future academic work and for general understanding of important issues. For example, while I do no research work concerning modern China, it was illuminating to consider the America/China relationship detailed in Professor Halper’s lectures from the U.S. Foreign Policy course. Additionally, the taught elements were important in meeting and getting to know other members of the course both in and out of classes, and this social aspect certainly helped in enjoying the course. Furthermore, at least from my own experience, the supervision has been consistently excellent and thoughtful, with my supervisor demonstrating a clear and consistent interest in my research and learning. This high level of support has undoubtedly helped my work so far, and I believe will substantially help the final product as well."